Hunger Is Not a Disease

An Open Letter to Konrad Ryushin Marchaj

It seems only yesterday that we sent you an appeal for support.  We were a band of 4 people who barely knew each other, embarked on an adventure.  None of us mentioned it, not even to each other…but you were our only hope.

We were processing a 501c3 to open the Reservoir Food Pantry.  And, until it came through, we needed a sponsor willing to share theirs.  So, you got the letter, and invited us to lunch at Zen Mountain Monastery so we could meet and make our appeal.

We begged, really, but you never let on.  We went away that afternoon energized by your openness, professionalism, interest, concern.  Eventually you did what you did and we received the support from your group.

You gave us a raft on which we floated until we got our own 501c3 and gained acceptance with the Food Bank.

So, today, as a result of your efforts, there is now a pantry on Route 28 in the Ashokan Reservoir area of Ulster County in Upstate New York serving over 125 households every Monday afternoon.  The volunteers at this pantry look forward to serving the hungry for many years to come.

In conclusion:  Thank you Konrad Ryushin Marchaj for all you have done for yourself and your fellow man.  I saw you change the world around you for the better.  That counts for a lot in my book.

I wish you well on your continued journey of spiritual growth.  I am proud to have been touched by you.  On behalf of all the hungry people we feed each week, I offer gratitude.  It has been an honor and a pleasure.

I cannot thank you enough for your trust, your support, and your confidence in our humble venture.

Peace and food for all.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Please send a comment.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Thurman Greco

Can you spare a jar of peanut butter?

February 14, 2015.  02 degrees.  Snow.

What a gig.  It was pretty much the same last year but memories are short and we forgot what it feels like to have numb fingers, toes, noses, ears.  Only, this year was different.  This year we had more volunteers working shorter hours at the table:  Barbara, Garrett, Joan, Kerin, Louise, Prasida, Susanne.

Prasida sat at the head table near the grocery store entrance the entire time…as she always does.  She’s the stem winder.  In this case, the weather being what it was, it was more like she was beating the drum in the belly of the slave ship.

It wasn’t quite that bad though.  When the weather got really cold, she cancelled Friday.

“I’m afraid one of us is going to freeze to death at the table.” she said.  We laughed hysterically at her joke because the cold made us giddy.  But, really, most of us are too old to be out in the elements at this temperature.

“We’re hoping you’ll take a moment to share a little $$$ or food for the hungry” could be heard repeated throughout the day by the volunteers.  Shoppers approached the table with open wallets as they hurried into the warm building. Even at this temperature, we saw an occasional person without a coat.

We know the shoppers, the employees, the bus drivers, the taxi drivers.  We enjoy visiting with everyone each month.  With a table and 2 chairs at both entrances, there’s almost always an extra seat for a visitor to join for a chat.  When you don’t see someone for a month, you need to catch up on the news:

who’s sick,

who’s well,

whose car got fixed,

how the job is going…or not going

what’s happening at some other pantry or soup kitchen.

We did miss one very special person this month:  the homeless woman who spends her days at the Walmart.  I wonder where (or if) she’s keeping warm in this frigid weather.

So, the big news this month is the cooold.   Prasida folded up our tables about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.  We remarked to each other that the weather was also pretty awful last February and we stuck it out because we had no choice.  This year we had a choice because of the many people who answered our hunger appeal in December.  Thank you for your generosity.

We’ll be paying catch up though.  We’re planning to stay a few extra hours at our drives in May and June.  If you missed us on Friday, please drop by our tables on March 12, 13, and 14th.  Hopefully the weather will be just a bit warmer then.

Thanks again for your generosity.  Without your participation, we could never do the job we do.  We fed 4188 households consisting of 8190 people in 2014.  We could never, ever, not in a million years have done this job without your support.

Thank you!

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Pleae refer this article to your preferred social media network.
Please send a comment.
Don’t forget to join the email list.

Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, noon, 16 degrees at the Reservoir Food Pantry

I drove up to the parking lot we use on pantry day.  It’s not our parking lot, really.  It belongs to the old Robert’s Auction building.  The snow plow guy had cleaned the space very well so I knew right away that we were going to have a good day.  Then, I noticed that the walkway from the parking lot to the shed entrance hadn’t been shoveled.

WOW.  The snow was knee deep along the walkway.  Oh well.  At least we could park our cars.

It didn’t matter anyway.  The sun was out.  People could park.  This was the closest to a decent day we’ve had in 3 weeks.  We were going to be busy today.

I slogged through the snow to the shed and found Cheryl. Minutes later Bob and Tony arrived. Things were improving! The pantry day began itself. As volunteers arrived, we tackled our jobs:
Fronting the shelves in the pantry.
Arranging produce in the greenhouse.
Preparing takeout bags.
Checking to see if the greenhouse door would close (it didn’t). We’d had trouble closing it last week and wondered how it would manage today (it didn’t).
Finding pens that work for the sign in book. This is always a challenge when the temperature drops below 30.

Jean, a new volunteer in her 80’s, found a shovel in her car and cleared the walkway the best she could.

When the pantry opened, shoppers made their way through the snow from the parking lot to the shed. A steady stream of people came all afternoon. Those who had cars brought those who did not. They were:

Everything stopped about 4 so we packed up and headed out. Only then did I notice that there was no feeling in my fingers, toes, nose, ears. Cheryl and I had worked in the shed where there was some heat in spite of the door opening repeatedly. (The wall thermometer showed a steady 36 all afternoon.)

Bob and Susanne worked in the greenhouse where, in spite of the heater, there was only cold. The open door made the whole room feel like outside. 17 degrees.
Prasida worked in the greenhouse for awhile as she prepared to go on her takeout run. Sean and Bonnie came by and collected produce for their takeouts as well.

We are, as a pantry, people racing against all odds to feed the hungry. We do much to make sure everyone receives fresh produce every pantry day. Our new van, just yesterday christened “The Beast,” will be offering more and more produce as the shoppers increase.

Most of our volunteers are similar to other pantry volunteers. We’re cotton tops old enough to have our priorities straight. We agree that feeding the hungry is important. We make time in our remaining days to do the job.

What sets us apart at Reservoir Food Pantry is the number of volunteers. We have many and more show up every week.

The bottom line: As a group, we don’t care if the weather is hot, cold, wet, dry. We’re at the pantry to serve the people. So, as long as we can get the food, there are now options for everyone in the area who is hungry:
Elderly poor,
Employed poor,
Food insecure,
Generational poor,
Homeless (sheltered),
Homeless (unsheltered),
Ill poor,
Infant poor,
Newly poor,
Persistent poor,
Resource poor,
Situational poor,
Struggling poor,
Underemployed poor,
Unemployed poor.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
Please share this post with your preferred social media network.
Please leave a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Thanks Jan: An Open Letter to Jan Whitman

Thank you for the wonderful job you did throughout your career at the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.    Many, many people are escaping hunger because of the direction you offered.  This time at the Food Bank really amounts to your entire adult life because the Food Bank was your only employer.  You’ve been the face of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley for over 20 years!

Several years ago you invited me to serve on your board.  It’s been an honor and a pleasure to do this job, although I’m not really a “board person” anymore.  I’m a food pantry coordinator.  I accepted the invitation because you asked me to.  I never wanted to do anything more than feed a 3-day supply of food to each of the hungry shoppers at the food pantry.

When I met the other board members at meetings, I saw a group of people genuinely devoted to you…devoted to your concept of helping each and every person needing food, one person at a time.  Your attitudes strongly influenced the board members.  Board members attracted the resources needed to do the job because they were devoted to your dedication and mission.

What a gift!

And, while I’m focused on gifts  – donations – money, I cannot overlook the grants.  Jan, you are a wonderful grant writer.  Grant writers in your category are as scarce as hens’ teeth.  Very few can successfully bring in a grant package over $100,000.  You have no problem with that at all.  In fact, you brought in several in the summer of 2014.  And, to top it off, you were very quiet about it.  I only found out about them by  accident.  Then, of course, I spilled the beans far and wide.

Most recently, you introduced the concept of the Farm Stand to our area.  What a change you brought:  As a result of your leadership and innovation, hungry people have more access to fresh produce.  You goal was to have Farm Stands in communities throughout the  Hudson Valley where hungry people can shop for fresh produce at an affordable price:  free.

I visited 2 of the Farm Stands in Kingston recently.  One is located at People’s Place and the other at Community Action.  People with no $$$ now shop for the nutritious foods they need.

What a concept:  Excited, happy shoppers take fruits and vegetables home.  The choice includes:









Jan, none of us should have been a bit surprised by your idea.  After all, you’ve always felt individuals are important.  Your Farm Stand concept makes more fresh produce available to the hungry on an ongoing basis.  By focusing on feeding the hungry, one person at a time, you touched the lives of thousands  in our area.

All this Farm Stand food is donated by grocers and farmers.  No merchant is losing a sale by not seeing these shoppers at a supermarket line because these shoppers don’t have the income to buy any of these foods.

To accomplish this, you diverted food on its way to the landfill.  The implementation of the Farm Stand concept is moving the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley into the future at breakneck speed.

Thank you for all you did over the years.  When I think about this, I realize that you gave your adult life to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

Reluctantly, it’s time for us all to accept your resignation as the Executive Director of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.  You are adopting a new lifestyle.  The time has come for corporate memory and focus to change.

The building housing the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley offers much opportunity now that Farm Stands are a part of the function in the area.  This cavernous space is ready for someone with the energy, budget, and authority to move in the future.  You know, more than anyone, that much can be accomplished with the right person at the helm.  You set the stage for this to happen.

I served on your board.  Now, I offer my resignation.  It’s time for the employees and volunteers of the future Food Bank of the Hudson Valley to write their own story.

Peace and food for all.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Please leave a comment.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Thurman Greco


Welcome Hunger Buster or Snow White or White Lightening or

Wheels with Meals, or whatever we come up with.

Whatever you’re going to be called…welcome!

We’ve got a contest going here:  If you name our shiny new low mileage Chevy Van, you’ll win the prize of a jar of peanut butter.

Our brand new shiny, white Chevy van 2500  has been a long time coming.  We outgrew Vanessa months and months ago but nobody  really talked about it.  Setting up this pantry has been a very expensive venture and we lived with the Caravan as long as we possibly could and then hung on another few months.

We held a fund drive in November which brought in some much needed $$$.  Now…thanks to everyone’s generosity Prasida is driving around in our brand new shiny, low mileage Chevy panel truck from Deitz Motors on Route 28.

Now, Prasida and Francine will  return from Latham on Mondays with all the food we need.  We hope we never run out of produce again…ever.

We’d been looking for months.  Finally, last week, Prasida and Bob Overton drove over and saw this gorgeous beauty  waiting for us.

I’m not into numerology very much but even I could tell I’d never seen such a gorgeous license plate.

This van might have surfaced weeks sooner but, energetically, we needed to open a space for it in our lives.  Plus, (and this is no small deal), Prasida had to get up one day and drink an extra cup of tea before 9:00 a.m..  That threw her into high gear and she really got things done.

This week, our pantry found a snow plow team, arranged for more electricity in our greenhouse, bought a Chevy van, and (whew) I don’t know what else!

All this happened because everyone got together for a lunchtime meeting on Tuesday.  To-do lists were  passed around.  People signed on the dotted line.

The Reservoir Food Pantry took giant steps forward.  I offer  sincere gratitude and heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in this pantry in any way.  We are getting things done this week that I did not think would happen for another year.

It is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of the Reservoir Food Pantry.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please share this article with anyone you know who might be involved in the Reservoir Food Pantry or who might be interested in our activities.

Please send a comment.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

An Open Letter to Tomo Jacobson


Thanks so much for writing to Chuck Klosterman of the New York Times about dumpster diving.  I appreciate your stand that dumpster diving is moral.  I also like  your question about whether it is ethically wrong to dumpster dive.  I never thought much about the ethics of dumpster diving before.

As a food pantry coordinator, I interact with people every week who dumpster dive to feed themselves as well as their children, parents, and housemates.  We can’t explore the ethics of dumpster diving without exploring the ethics of allowing people in our country to go hungry because they can’t make enough $$$ at their jobs to buy food.

People who come to the Reservoir Food Pantry take a 3-day supply of food home to wherever and whatever that is each week.  The other 4 days, they’re on their own.

That means they can buy the food if they have a SNAP card and if they can get to a store selling food.  If they don’t have either the $$$ or a SNAP card, then they must get creative.  That involves:


Borrowing $$$ from friends, relatives, neighbors

Showing up at someone’s house (friend, relative, neighbor) at mealtime

Sending the children to someone’s house (friend, relative, neighbor) at mealtime

Stealing and (of  course),

Dumpster Diving.

In Woodstock, NY, where I live, a beloved neighbor named  Cassia Berman routinely went dumpster diving for greens (kale, chard, collards).  Cassia was on the library board and taught Qigung at the community center.  She never made a fortune, certainly not enough to buy organic produce at the Sunflower Natural Foods Market.

Cassia felt  good nutrition was her best defense against illness.  I was always grateful for Cassia’s attitude.  She brought class to the whole hunger scene.

Thanks for reading this blog/book.

Please send a comment.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

There is no excuse for anyone in our country to be hungry.


“Thanks for dropping by this afternoon.  We’re going to open the pantry in just a few minutes.  Please bear with us while I get this shelf stocked.”  It was only 1:00 and the place was already crowded.  What’re we going to do when there’s a freezing rain, I thought.

“Okay.  Come on in.   We’re ready.”


Ever since the ’80s, volunteers at food pantries and soup kitchens have been working to feed people so they won’t be hungry for the coming few days.  What was once considered to be a crisis is now a way of life for many people unable to extricate themselves from poverty and destitution.  It’s also a way of life for the many volunteers working at soup kitchens and pantries throughout our country.

HUNGER IN AMERICA IS A SHAMEFUL SITUATION FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.   There is no excuse for anyone in our country to be hungry.

A fairly common complaint I hear is:  “We shouldn’t be feeding these people.  This is not solving the problem.   There shouldn’t even be pantries.”

I submit to you that we’re facing 2 separate problems.  When a person shops at a pantry for a 3-day supply of food, an effort is being made to rescue this person and his/her household from the grip of food insecurity.


Food pantries do not address poverty and destitution in our country.  Food pantries cannot address the urgent and ongoing need for:


job training

job referral




medical attention

adequate wages.

Many people shopping at pantries can get themselves out of the ongoing rut of poverty with help.  There’s a huge difference between feeding people a 3-day-supply of food weekly and lifting them out of poverty.

Food pantries are stop-gap measures used to keep hungry people from starving until our leaders in Washington reach viable solutions to the problems created by poverty.

Food pantries assist poor and destitute people use their minimum wage funds to get back and forth to work.


Food pantry volunteers  are on the front lines of the war against food insecurity.  Our concern is making sure there is enough food in our pantry to feed the people coming for help every week.  It’s all about food security.

Getting people out of poverty is not an issue for pantry workers  at all.  We cannot even begin to address this issue at the food pantry level.

As food providers, our situation is labor-intensive, unpredictable, and filled with crisis management situations.  We routinely deal with boxes weighing over 40 pounds each, loading docks, and parking lot accidents.

Politicians continually work to remove the safety net offered by SNAP cards, unemployment payments, health care.

One program which doesn’t get as much attention is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is billed as a program designed to reward the low wage worker.  In reality, this subsidizes the employer, who can then pay lower wages without causing the worker so much pain that s/he can no longer afford to work.  This program benefits many large corporations.  It is a great tool for all big box employers.

Until there is a secure community safety net for the poor and destitute in our country, we will continue to feed a 3-day-supply of food weekly to families/households who don’t make enough $$$ to buy food after they pay for rent and transportation.  Their minimum wage paychecks simply don’t last a week.

Every time I serve a 3-day-supply of food to a working person, I am reminded that in our country working people  no longer have any  value to their corporate employers.  They are nothing more than  commodities to be exploited.


Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Please send a comment.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco